Youk's an X factor who needs Final Votes
Many agree first baseman can be vital component for AL
ST. PETERSBURG -- As loaded as the American League roster is for the upcoming All-Star Game, there is one player currently sitting on the outside looking in who could play a significant factor in determining the outcome of the game. Of course, that outcome is no small thing, since it determines which league will get home-field advantage in the World Series.
Not only is Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis a star player, but he is pretty much the definition of a winning player.
Youkilis never gives an at-bat away, be it in Spring Training, regular season, postseason or an All-Star Game.
Now, all he needs is a ticket to Anaheim, which fans can get him with their support on the Final Vote ballot.
Youkilis is currently trailing for the final spot on the AL All-Star team after Monday's results were announced, with Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher leading the pack. The first baseman is also competing with the Rangers' Michael Young, the Twins' Delmon Young and Paul Konerko of the White Sox.
Now in its ninth year, the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show and continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and data rates may apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Standard rates may apply.
While worthy players are left off the All-Star rosters every single year -- it is just about unavoidable -- there was definitely a sense of disbelief from the Boston clubhouse that Youkilis didn't make the roster. This is because those players see what a vital ingredient he is every day.
"Youk, he's the No. 1 first baseman in my book," said Red Sox righty Clay Buchholz, one of his team's six All-Stars. "He does it at first base while he's hitting for power and average. He does everything."
Consider this: The stat that front offices all around baseball find invaluable now when evaluating players is OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). Entering Monday, Youkilis was fourth in the Majors in that department at 1.000.
He was also first in runs (65) and third in on-base percentage (.416). Serving as Boston's cleanup man, Youkilis is tied with two All-Stars (teammate David Ortiz and Minnesota's Justin Morneau) for seventh in the AL with 17 homers.
And then, well, yes, the defense. Starting 73 games at first base this season, Youkilis has displayed the form similar to when he won the Gold Glove Award in 2007, making just two errors. He also has the versatility of playing third, a position he started twice at for manager Terry Francona this year without making an error.
So imagine that the AL and National League are in a tight game heading into the middle innings and Junior Circuit manager Joe Girardi wants his best defensive team in there. What better player to insert at first than Youkilis, who can also provide relentless at-bats each time he comes to the plate? Miguel Cabrera is the only other backup first baseman on the AL roster, but he would be better served for an at-bat or two earlier in the game, and then Youkilis -- a superior defender -- can hold down the fort with the glove.
"When I found out he wasn't going, I was kind of upset," said Ortiz. "A guy that has put it together like Youk through the years and especially this season, he really deserves to be out there. I know a lot of people will keep that in mind and make sure Youk is an All-Star. He deserves to be in there."
In typical Youkilis fashion, however, he isn't going to beg anyone for votes.
"I'm not a self-promoter," said Youkilis. "I'm not going to tell anyone to vote for me. I hope my family and friends vote for me. But it's going to take more than that. For me, I'm going to go out and play baseball and not worry about it. It's out of my hands. You just go out and try to win a ballgame."
And there are many out there who would surely agree that the AL probably has a better chance to win a ballgame with Youkilis on the roster for the third straight year.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.